In the time leading up to the World Cup, when people would ask me about the USA game vs. Ghana, I would tell them it was a game that could go either way. The USA could win 3-0, but could also get beat 3-0, and it could be a draw. It was a game that was pretty even, and that’s what we saw on Monday night, but we were able to pull it out in the end when it looked like we just might lose it.
It was a great start, with Clint Dempsey’s early goal really shaking Ghana up. I thought in the first half we played really well. We limited Ghana to only a few chances in the first half. It was a shame with the injuries to Jozy Altidore and Matt Besler, the second half I think we could all see was a completely different game. We defended well, but we had to because Ghana really put us on the back foot.
I must admit I was very nervous as Ghana equalized because at that stage all the momentum was with Ghana. I really didn’t see how we were going to score. It was a fantastic ball in, and great header by Brooks, and the boys saw it out.
The goal by Dempsey, and his work rate and effort impressed me. I was very impressed with Cameron. He had an excellent game, especially playing a full season at right back at Stoke, then moving to center back next to Matt Besler, and then having another partner for the final 45 minutes.
I thought Jermaine Jones was colossal. I thought he played really well, in the second half especially when Ghana was really pressuring. He held the ball up for us well and was breaking up a lot of plays. He was my Man of the Match last night.
Ghana lost but I thought the right winger, Christian Atsu was exceptional, and I thought when Kevin Prince-Boateng changed things when he came into the match. Everyone can see in one-v-one situations they are very strong. They’ll be very disappointed at the way they started the game, and also the second goal, conceding on a set piece after they equalized.
I think Ghana will be able to pose a lot of problems to Portugal from what I’ve seen, and on their day, they might be able to pose some problems for Germany. Having said that, Germany looked a very strong unit in beating Portugal.
One of the most memorable parts of Monday’s game was seeing a stadium in Brazil filled with so many American supporters. It was great to see, but not completely surprising. It’s just the changing of the times, and the growing of U.S. Soccer in general. MLS is growing, it’s more recognized around the World, and definitely more recognized in the United States. Even in the bar and restaurant where we were watching it was filled with American supporters. It didn’t surprise me that there were so many U.S. fans inside the stadium. I travel around the world and there’s many, many U.S. fans, and it’s a great sight to see.
This 2014 U.S. World Cup team has, for me, similarities to our 2002 team. I see a squad of players that aren’t only excited at the prospect of being involved in the squad. They all hope to start and play, as opposed to just being happy to be on the team. Especially In 2006 I don’t think there was too much leadership. On this team, to me, it looks like they have a few more leaders. Clint (Dempsey) will be a leader by example, and Timmy (Howard) will be a more vocalized leader.
It is surely down to the leaders on the team for helping the team respond to adversity on Monday the way they did. In these games, you’re always going to have to deal with a little bit of pressure. Possibly we had to deal with a little too much, but great result and a really good start to the tournament.
It is just the beginning though. Two very tough games await, and don’t be fooled by Portugal’s loss to Germany. Portugal is definitely going to be under a lot more pressure than us. Saying that, Germany can pick apart any team on their day. I don’t think we can go to it saying they’re a bad team because they lost 4-0 to Germany. We have to go into it with the mindset of this team is going to be a very good team, and a team that’s hard to beat, and let’s not take away from the fact they still have one of the best players in the world on their team.
We’re obviously going to have to keep our eyes on Ronaldo, and try to limit the number of times he can get into positions that are one-v-one, because that’s where his strength lies. It’s a game we can definitely get a draw or a win it, but if we don’t do what we’re good at then we could lose.
We can’t get carried away because we won the first game. We have to go into it knowing that they’re not going to play as poorly as they did against Germany, or get outplayed as badly as they did against Germany. We have to expect them to come out fighting.
Portugal took their beating, but I fully expect them to come out in that first 15-20 minutes and really try to take it to us. It’s up to us to weather that storm and then play ourselves. If we can get the early goal like we did in 2002 that would really send shivers down their spine and they might be little bit too nervous and worried about their confidence. Scoring first on them would be a huge plus for us, and bring us one step closer to that goal of advancing from the so-called ‘Group of Death.’